Pastor Nathan's sermon today was called "Joy Abounds".
I've talked about joy before, but his sermon was so good, I have to share.
Before Pastor Nathan got deep into the details, he wanted to make sure that we all knew what joy is...exceeding gladness. It can't be forced, but just happens. It's not a shallow happiness, but a deep happiness that comes from our souls and overflows. True joy comes from God and only God.
The main point that stood out to me was, "Joy is not the result of proper circumstances. Joy is the result of the right response to the Lord of our circumstances." Read that again because it's important. He continued with the example of Mary, Jesus' mother. She was a young girl, whom an angel visited and said she would give birth to the son of God even though she was a virgin. She wasn't married at the time, but was marrying another man who was not the father of the baby. Culturally, it wasn't a good circumstance to be facing. However, she responded with obedience and she found joy. Luke 1:46-49 says, "And Mary said: 'My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name."
This made me think of my friends, Alisa and Jaime. In case you don't know their story, check it out here. They gave birth to their precious son this past Friday. Because of the the baby's fatal birth defect, they were given the option of abortion, but they quickly declined. They knew that God had given them a baby despite the many doctors who said she would be unable to get pregnant. They couldn't stand the thought of ending their baby's life so they decided to make the most of their time with their baby. They went to soccer games, basketball games, carved pumpkins, and went to see Santa...things that you would do with your child outside of the womb. Alisa knew it was risky to carry, but she was going to anyway because she felt that's what God wanted her to do. Doctors were unsure if London would be alive by the time Alisa would be awake from the anethesia, so that was a case for worry. Guess what?! Baby London came, spent 71 minutes here on Earth (more than what was expected for the circumstances) AND he got to spend time with his mommy while she was awake.
71 minutes doesn't seem like a lot of time, but it was more than expected. Looking at pictures of their special moments, I could tell that although it has been a difficult time, Alisa and Jaime had so much joy during those 71 minutes. I can't imagine being in their position. I know they have shed some tears of sorrow since their baby boy is no longer with them, but I know they have shed tears of joy because of their gift from God. They've also found joy in that God revealed Himself through their situation to thousands and thousands of people. God chose them to be the parents of London...a boy who would show people all around the world what faith looks like. His parents have put their trust in God's will despite their circumstances. To me, that is true faith...obeying God even through the hard times and trusting that His will is better than ours.
quote from Jaime
I have cried and cried for my dear friends, but I've also been in amazement....amazed by their strength, faithfulness, and most importantly, how God has moved through this situation. Pastor Nathan said, "Your faith can only grow through suffering." I agree with him from first hand experience and I know they would agree too. No doubt, this has been extremely difficult for them, but I do believe that they have and will experience joy because they responded to the Lord of their circumstances in the proper way...trusting and loving Him no matter what.
Please continue to pray for Alisa and Jaime as this is still a very difficult time.
If you are facing a hard time and you just don't understand why, trust in God.
Know that He is strengthening you through the hurt and the pain.
Respond to Him in the proper way...obedience, submission and love.
We live in a tough, sinful world, but God is bigger.
He can work through those times and strengthen our faith in Him.
He reminds us that we will face roadblocks, but He can get us through.
Life isn't easy, but He has bigger and better things in mind for us (not to mention, a perfect paradise in Heaven for all eternity) when we believe in Him.
Check out this song, "My soul magnifies the Lord"